Ranking Every Version of Seth Rollins' WWE Character Since Shield Debut
Since arriving on the main roster as one-third of The Shield at Survivor Series 2012, he has achieved almost every accolade imaginable. The trio of Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose had an incredible run together before going their separate ways in the summer of 2014.
Their split allowed Rollins to shine in singles competition and go on to become one of the company's biggest stars of the modern era. From winning the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 31 to beating Brock Lesnar for his first Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35, his long list of accomplishments in WWE speaks for itself.
The Architect also deserves credit for excelling in both the babyface and heel roles throughout his career. Regardless of where he's been positioned on the card, he never ceases to make the most of everything he's been a part of and get the desired reaction from fans.
Rollins' booking hasn't always been the best, but he has reinvented himself whenever he's been on the verge of growing stale from a character standpoint. That is the key to a finding success as a WWE Superstar, and he has mastered that craft over the years.
His most recent run as the self-proclaimed Monday Night Messiah is off to a strong start, but where does it rank among every other version of Rollins dating back to his WWE debut?
5. The Shield (2012-2014)
Of The Shield's three members, Rollins received the least amount of focus and wasn't expected to amount to much as a singles star prior to their abrupt breakup. That's because Dean Ambrose flourished as a heel while Roman Reigns was protected at all costs.
Despite that, Rollins was the MVP of almost every Shield six-man tag team match. His hot tags did an amazing job of electrifying the audience and were especially exciting during their babyface run in 2014.
In fact, an argument could be made that he was at his best from an in-ring standpoint while he was with the faction. Unfortunately, he hasn't been the same since suffering two knee injuries a few years ago, but his matches were on another level during this stage of his career.
Aside from how much fun he was to watch once the bell rang, he didn't have much character development until turning on The Shield. That's why this iteration of the inaugural NXT champion ranks at the bottom of the list, but that doesn't mean he was entirely uninteresting around this time.
His frustration about constantly being overlooked in favor of Reigns and Ambrose allowed him to evolve into the well-rounded performer he is today. In other words, the Shield version of Rollins was crucial to his growth as a top talent in WWE. Without it, it's unlikely things would have turned out quite as well for him.
4. Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim (2016-2017)
The timing of the knee injury Rollins suffered in November 2015 couldn't have been worse. Although he was at the height of his WWE Championship run and was one of the few Superstars who made Raw worth watching that year, the setback also proved to be a blessing in disguise.
He was all over WWE programming prior to that point, so his lengthy absence from the ring gave his character a much-needed break and effectively turned him babyface. Per a tweet he put out upon getting hurt, he was determined to redesign, rebuild and reclaim once he was cleared to compete again.
There was an opportunity there for him to return as a beloved hero (a la Triple H in 2002), but in an odd turn of events, WWE instead brought him back as a heel for a few months.
However, the cheers he was receiving on a near-weekly basis were too loud to ignore, and once newly crowned universal champion Finn Balor went down with an injury in August 2016, Rollins replaced him as Raw's top face. He didn't endear himself to the audience overnight, but it was a character change that needed to happen.
The Architect struggled as a face for a few months due to being booked to lose against Kevin Owens whenever it mattered most, but he eventually started clicking in the role by mid-2017. That was when he wrapped up his rivalry with Triple H and reunited with Dean Ambrose after three years.
He experienced many ups and downs during this phase of his career because he was ill-defined as a character. The WWE Universe was behind him because it realized he was a phenomenal performer, but it wasn't until 2018 that he really hit his stride as a fan favorite.
3. Monday Night Rollins (2018-2019)
Rollins largely floundered in the tag team ranks from the summer of 2017 through the beginning of 2018 before finally getting his big break in a history-making Gauntlet match on Raw that February.
Following an outstanding performance where he lasted over an hour, it truly felt like we were starting to see the best version of The Architect.
He rode that wave of momentum into WrestleMania 34 where he won the Intercontinental Championship for the first time in a tremendous Triple Threat match. From there, he did more to make that title mean something than almost anyone else in the last 15 years by defending it against elite competition every other week on Raw.
Not only was Rollins killing it in the ring, but he was also connecting with the audience in a way he never had before. Fans respected his hustle and cheered him louder than any other babyface in the company at the time.
He was at the peak of his popularity that summer, specifically right after WrestleMania.
At the turn of the year, he traded in the intercontinental title for a Royal Rumble win. That led him to scoring a swift victory over Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35, though that marked the beginning of his downfall as a face.
His decent into darkness (which could be attributed to his bad booking and questionable comments in interviews) hurt his time as universal champion and overall standing with the fans. He was where everyone wanted him to be at long last, yet he was infinitely less interesting and much more unlikable upon claiming the top spot on Raw.
If nothing else, WWE was smart to revert him back to his heel roots by the end of his Monday Night Rollins phase. It was surreal to see him go from being universally admired to unequivocally despised in the span of one year.
2. The Monday Night Messiah (2020)
As revered as Rollins was as a babyface early on, he has always been far more natural in the heel role. He was in his element as a villain when The Shield started in WWE and later when he embarked on a singles run, so it was only inevitable before he returned to those roots.
There was no better time for WWE to pull the trigger on the turn than late last year following months of him being booed by many fans. He was already acting oddly defensive on social media and in interviews, so all he had to do was incorporate those insecurities into his on-air persona.
Once he did, starting on the post-Survivor Series edition of Raw, it was almost as if something had clicked within him. The heat he elicited from that promo running down the Raw roster for their failures at the event was music to his ears, and everything he did to infuriate the fans from that point forward came natural to him.
Heel Rollins was back, and The Monday Night Messiah (as he has since declared himself) was born.
The best part about his latest heel run is that it is completely different from when he was a bad guy with The Shield and The Authority. Instead of being an overly arrogant up-and-comer, he now comes off like a delusional narcissist who looks at himself as a savior of sorts.
Better yet, he has surrounded himself with Superstars he knows will have his back: AOP and Murphy. The foursome has already found success with Rollins and Murphy winning the Raw Tag Team Championship together a month ago.
In time, this incarnation of Rollins could prove to the best ever (depending how far WWE goes with it), but as of this writing, his time spent with The Authority was when he really came into his own and therefore is tough to top.
1. The Architect of the Authority (2014-2015)
As previously noted, most fans had no idea what would become of Rollins once The Shield broke up.
Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns were destined for big things in singles competition, whereas Rollins was projected to be the "third wheel" of sorts and potentially languish in midcard obscurity.
The complexion of his career changed completely once he betrayed Ambrose and Reigns in shocking fashion on a June 2014 episode of Raw, revealing himself to be the newest member of The Authority in the process.
Although the stable had long overstayed its welcome by that point, adding Rollins to its ranks instantly freshened it up. He was positioned as the crown jewel of the faction and was given every tool necessary to succeed, including the Money in the Bank briefcase.
He ran rampant over the entire WWE roster for months and amassed various victories against the likes of Ambrose, John Cena, Sheamus and Rob Van Dam. That led him to cashing in his contract in the main event of WrestleMania 31 and walking out as the new WWE champion.
No one was better at inciting anger from fans and backing up their trash talk than Rollins. He improved immensely on the mic during this period and was consistently having terrific matches with Randy Orton, Cena, Ambrose, Brock Lesnar, Neville and Sting to boot.
He reigned as WWE champion for over seven months before vacating the title due to injury. There's no telling how much farther he could have gone as a heel had he not gotten hurt, but either way, this version of Rollins was solely responsible for making him the perennial main event player he is today and should be recognized as the greatest version of his character to date.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.